You might have missed it over the weekend (what with all the Grapefruit League action), but Israel Vázquez and Rafael Márquez got together for the rubber-match of their epic trilogy and the result was nothing short of astounding. Boxing fans everywhere settled in on Saturday night for what we knew would be bloody match contested by two of the ten best in the sport, but nothing could have prepared us for what will go down as one of the greatest battles the we've ever seen. To truly understand what went down on Saturday we must look back at the two fights that brought us to this point.
March 3rd 2007- Vázquez came in as the Bantamweight champion but Márquez's devastating jabs and straight right hands battered the champ's nose so badly that he had no choice but to to retire on the stool before the eighth. After seven brutal rounds of competition Márquez became the new champion of the Super-Bantamweight division.
July 4th 2007 - The two principals stepped back into the ring just four months removed from the devastation of their first encounter, but tonight would be different. Márquez went right back to work turning Vázquez's face into a disaster area, but the former champion mustered the strength to return every power punch with two of his own. The third round was recognized as Ring Magazine's Round of the Year for 2007 (despite the brilliance of Pavlik/Taylor I) and things wrapped up early once again when Márquez's corner threw in the towel during the sixth.
So after two fights and 13 brutal rounds, the two men entered the ring on Saturday night fighting for both the WBC title and the immense pride we're used to seeing from the elite Mexican pugilists. There was no reason to think it wouldn't be a classic, but there were plenty of reasons to believe it wouldn't last long. When my girlfriend asked if I was scoring the fight myself I actually laughed. Never once did I even stop to think that the fight could conceivably last the full 12 rounds, and how could I? The idea of these two men exchanging blows at their typical pace for 12 rounds seemed like an impossibility, and yet that's exactly how it played out.
When Vázquez was knocked down early in the fight it became the first time he met the canvas in the trilogy, but he wasn't the least bit phased. Before the ref could count to four Vázquez was ready for more. Instead of running out the round by cowering in the far-reaches of the ring Vázquez practically sprinted at his foil and leveled Márquez with a stunning right hand. From there it became apparent that neither man would be giving in on this evening, no matter the cost.
Vázquez was the eventual winner thanks to a tremendous 12th round performance that will surely go down as one of the best boxing has seen in decades. As much as I'd like to delight you with a punch-by-punch recap I will instead urge you to watch the replay of this fight at your earliest convenience. Unfortunately I have no idea when that might be, so if you do want a more comprehensive breakdown of Saturday night's majesty I'll direct you over to the incomparable work of Large at No Mas.
Oh and by the way, we're heading for an unprecedented FOURTH installation in this already classic rivalry. I'm giddy.